2023 has been an amazing year for cinema, whether you’re watching at the theater or streaming from the couch. While last year’s film offerings focused on thoughtful takes on the world and society, this is the year for billion-dollar blockbusters and talented ensemble pieces, like Barbie, Oppenheimer, The Little Mermaid, and more. Ahead, here are 30 of the best movies this year.
Writer-director Celine Song’s Past Lives opened to much acclaim (and more than a few tears) at this year’s Sundance festival, and has had audiences and critics talking ever since. (It opened in theaters across the country in June and is now available via video on demand.) You can chalk up its enduring appeal to Song’s ability to tap into a universal experience of love, longing, and wondering what could have been—all nestled in an intimate story about a Korean-American woman (Greta Lee) who rekindles a connection with her childhood crush (Teo Yoo) back in Korea.
C’mon, Barbie, let’s go party—but Greta Gerwig style. With Gerwig behind the lens and a cast consisting of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken, alongside Will Ferrell, Emma Mackey, Hari Nef, Issa Rae, and America Ferrera, among many others, Barbie turned out to be the defining film of 2023. It’s a feminist take on girlhood, dreams, and gender roles that will surely be a sleepover classic for years to come.
This Leonard Bernstein biopic has been a long time in the making, with Bradley Cooper attached as early as 2018, when Martin Scorsese was still set to direct. Instead, Cooper took the directorial reins, as well as the starring role as Bernstein. It will focus almost exclusively on the legendary composer’s relationship with wife, Felicia Montealegre, played by Carey Mulligan.
Todd Haynes’s latest flick will surely cause quite the splash when it lands on Netflix on December 1, after a limited theatrical run at the end of November. Natalie Portman stars opposite Julianne Moore, whose character is based on Mary Kay Letourneau, the high school teacher who caused a nationwide scandal for her exploitative sexual relationship with a sixth-grade student in the ’90s. The film is 20 years later, when the loosely inspired couple find themselves at odds over Portman’s character, an actor set to play the former teacher in an upcoming biopic about their lives.
Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce
The Renaissance World Tour changed my life—and about a million other lives—this year. As Taylor Swift’s own concert documentary did in October, Renaissance will land in theaters for a limited run this December. Featuring footage of the history-making world tour, and behind-the-scenes footage, this is the certifiable can’t-miss movie event of the year.
Just a few years after the Academy Award–nominated Ford v Ferrari comes Ferrari, based on the 1991 biography of car titan Enzo Ferrari and the story of a fateful race along Italy’s Mille Miglia. Beyond the incredibly cool cars, though, is an equally cool cast: Adam Driver, Patrick Dempsey, Penélope Cruz, Shailene Woodley—even Hugh Jackman and Noomi Rapace!
Anyone but You
Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell made headlines earlier this year for reasons separate from their new rom-com, Anyone but You. Still, the tabloid firestorm worked as legitimate marketing for the film, which tells the story of a failed first date and an unexpected reunion at a destination wedding in … Australia?
We’ll do just about anything to see both Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan onscreen together, and Foe is no exception. This haunting sci-fi drama sees a young couple in an alternate America torn apart when they meet a stranger who offers them a life-changing opportunity, which calls into question the very nature of humanity itself.
Sofia Coppola’s autobiographical film based on Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir Elvis and Me is an interesting foil to Baz Lurhmann’s own 2022 biopic Elvis, which famously featured that Austin Butler accent. Whereas Elvis was an almost mythological retelling of the King of Rock and Roll’s life story, Priscilla sticks much closer to the actual source material, and is sure to leave viewers questioning everything they knew about one of America’s most divisive rock stars.
Timothée Chalameet as a young Willy Wonka? Sign me up. The film chronicles how Wonka met the Oompa-Loompas ahead of his time at the chocolate factory and should be quite the nostalgic ride when it’s officially released on December 15.
Dicks: The Musical
Did you know Megan Thee Stallion was in a musical movie this year? A24’s first movie musical, Dicks, is a bizarre take on the classic Parent Trap story, in which two businessmen discover they’re long-lost twins and set out to reunite their parents. Megan Mullally, Nathan Lane, Bowen Yang, Nick Offerman, D’Arcy Carden—Dicks stars everyone!
Passages has lingered with me since I saw it. A startling work by director Ira Sachs, it is an odd tale of a gay couple whose marriage is torn apart by an affair with a woman. Adèle Exarchopoulos shines as Agathe, whose onscreen chemistry with Ben Whishaw and Franz Rogowski is the stuff of legend.
Saltburn is Jacob Elordi’s second appearance on this list, and for good reason. Critics have already issued rave reviews about this Alice in Wonderland–style romp through the world of a secretive, mysterious English family, which also stars Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan, and Barry Keoghan.
You Hurt My Feelings
Nicole Holofcener made one of my favorite rom-coms of the last 10 years, Enough Said, so it’s no surprise she and muse Julia Louis-Dreyfus hit it out of the park again with You Hurt My Feelings. When Louis-Dreyfus’s Beth, a novelist, overhears her husband’s critical opinion of her latest book by accident, the two begin to question all the little lies couples tell themselves, and others.
The French coming-of-age film that follows two 13-year-old best friends has been described as heartbreaking and tremendous. Its intimate portrayal of young male friendship is simply moving to witness.
Knock at the Cabin
M. Night Shyamalan, the filmmaker known for his twist endings, is back with a thriller about an existential threat that falls on a happy family of three when four strangers appear at their remote cabin. Based on author Paul Tremblay’s 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World, the nature of the threat and the decision the family—Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, and Kristen Cui—have to make remains a mystery as the strangers, played by Dave Bautista, Rupert Grint, Nikki Amuka-Bird, and Abby Quinn, upheave their vacation.
Killers of the Flower Moon
Based on the best-selling nonfiction book of the same name, this American western crime drama is directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons, and Brendan Fraser. The plot revolves around a series of murders that took place in 1920s Oklahoma after oil was discovered on Indian land.
Christopher Nolan’s first biopic is based on the life of the father of the atomic bomb, physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy). Even if you know very little about the history of nuclear science, the cast is enough to want to tune in, with Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Rami Malek, Josh Peck, and Alex Wolff.
Based on the viral New Yorker short story by Kristen Roupenian, Cat Person premiered at Sundance ahead of its wide release in October. Starring Emilia Jones from CODA as Margot, the young college student who embarks on a relationship with Robert (Nicholas Braun), a 34-year-old who frequents the movie theater she works at, the story caused such a response based on its subtle accounting of power imbalances in relationships ahead of #MeToo.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance
The third and final Channing Tatum stripper movie arrived just in time for Valentine’s Day. Grab your people and watch the self-proclaimed “Super Bowl of Stripping” unfold.
If you have questions (as did I) about why a movie called Cocaine Bear came out this year, you are not alone. About a bear that goes on a cocaine-induced killing rampage, this thriller—based loosely on the real story of a 175-pound black bear nicknamed “Pablo Eskobear,” who died after snorting a duffel bag full of cocaine in 1985—is an absurdly fun time.
Whether you saw the dancing killer doll that went viral on TikTok or the eight look-alikes that performed at the premiere, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the horror film M3GAN was a 2023 standout. M3GAN is an artificially intelligent, lifelike doll designed by roboticist Gemma (Allison Williams), who gifts her young niece with the prototype after becoming the girl’s primary caretaker. What follows is the stuff out of a Chucky movie, but with a little more flair.
When You Finish Saving the World
The first A24 film of the year focused on the complicated mother-son relationship between Evelyn (Julianne Moore) and Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard), set against the backdrop of the modern age and all the issues it entails, like streaming and social media. While the two struggle to connect, Ziggy pursues a politically active girl from his school and Evelyn connects with a young boy at the shelter where she works, making Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut an amusing and emotional film.
Wes Anderson’s latest film is set to bring all his notable storytelling skills to the table, but this time at a Junior Stargazer convention in the desert. As with most of his movies, you don’t really know what Asteroid City is about until you’re done watching, which makes it beyond fun; and his ensemble casts only seem to get better and better, with this film starring Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson, Maya Hawke, Liev Schreiber, Jeff Goldblum, Rita Wilson, and Steve Carell.
The Color Purple
The musical adaption of Alice Walker’s classic novel, which premiered on Broadway in 2005, is coming to the big screen (again) and features an amazing cast at the hands of the director who helped with Beyoncé’s visual album Black Is King and Oprah Winfrey as one of the producers. Following protagonist Cellie (Fantasia) as she deals with growing up as a Black woman in the rural South in the early 1900s, the story introduces us to the many different women she encounters, like Sophia (Danielle Brooks), Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson), Mary “Squeak” Agnes (H.E.R.), and her sister Nettie (Halle Bailey/Ciara).
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Judy Blume’s amazing middle-school novel finally received a proper film adaption this year. Known for its frank discussion of religion, sex, and pondering female adolescence, the nostalgic film is an emotional ride. With Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret, the movie rounds out its cast with Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie playing her parents.
With the tagline “In a city of millions, no one hears you scream,” the latest Scream installment had thrills and frights in store that no one could be ready for. The film shows the survivors of the last movie—Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Mason Gooding—on a subway train in the city, where the next Ghostface runs rampant.
The Little Mermaid
The live-action adaption of The Little Mermaid far exceeded expectations. Halle Bailey soars as the beloved Ariel and effortlessly performs alongside a standout cast that includes Javier Bardem, Awkwafina, Melissa McCarthy, and more stars. It will make you believe mermaids really exist.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbird & Snakes
As someone who went to every midnight premiere of every original Hunger Games movie, I am beyond excited for the prequel to hit the big screens. Following a young Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) who mentors and develops feelings for the female District 12 tribute (Rachel Zegler) during the 10th Hunger Games, it will be a nostalgic venture back into the world created by Suzanne Collins. Plus, the cast also features Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage, and Hunter Schafer.
After Emma Seligman’s knockout directorial debut, Shiva Baby, she returned to the big screen with a movie about two unpopular queer girls in their senior year of high school, who start a fight club to try to impress and hook up with cheerleaders. Starring Rachel Sennott, Kaia Gerber, and Ayo Edebiri, Bottoms is the Gen Z comedy of the year.
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